Vending Machine Drinks: What to Include Now

    [fa icon="clock-o"] Apr 29, 2024 10:44:26 AM [fa icon="user"] Vending Group [fa icon="folder-open'] Vending Management, Products, Customer Experience

    As we enter spring, chances are you’re thinking about how to provide your employees, customers, and guests with their favorite drinks: Coke, Pepsi, Diet Coke, Mountain Dew, Gatorade, VitaminWater, Dasani, and more. 

    And just what are those guests looking for? They’re looking for the brands they know and enjoy, like Coke or Pepsi, but research suggests they’re also open to something new. Thankfully, major beverage brands are using their established brands to move into new spaces. But, that leaves vending machine owners with some questions about how to best stock vending machine drinks.

    Vending Machine Drinks: Top Products to Include Now

    According to Automatic Merchandiser, in 2022, cold beverages generated 23% of vending revenue, or about $4.1 billion. In other words, the decisions you make about what you put in your vending machines can really impact not just the satisfaction of your customers but also your bottom line.  

    While traditional beverages like sodas and energy drinks are still the staples in vending and micro-market beverage sales, there are a lot of new drinks on the market driving consumer demands. Operators should consider tapping into vending machine drink trends like:

    • Functional Beverages, which offer additional health benefits beyond basic nutrition. They may contain additional vitamins, minerals, herbs, amino acids, or other bioactive substances that claim extra health benefits such as extra energy, immunity digestive health, and mental focus;
    • Plant-Based Drinks, which include plant-based protein shakes, vegetable juices, and herbal teas. Plant-based drinks tend to appeal to consumers seeking alternatives to traditional dairy products for reasons such as lactose intolerance, ethical concerns, environmental sustainability, or health preferences; and
    • Non-alcoholic spirits, which are becoming ever more popular, especially with younger generations, are designed to mimic the taste and experience of traditional alcoholic spirits (e.g., gin, vodka, or whiskey) but without the alcohol content. These beverages are often crafted using botanicals, herbs, spices, and other flavorings to create complex and sophisticated flavor profiles.

    While water remains the #1 staple, “enhanced” water products are also growing in popularity. Many consumers want a caffeine-free beverage that brings them something more than just your average H2O. They may be looking for increased health immunity, better sleep, or even caffeine-free energy boosters. It’s predicted that the U.S. functional drinks market will grow from $45.32 billion in 2022 to $71.84 billion by 2028. That’s huge and offers a major window of opportunity to managed vending service users across the country. 

    Emerging Vending Machine Drink Trends 

    The beverage market is constantly evolving and looking to respond quickly to consumer demands and timely trends. So how can vending service providers do both? Let’s dig into the seasonal trends and how those impact consumer choices and vending machine drink choices.  

    Again, fortified water products are incredibly popular and will continue to be as the warmer months come into full swing. They’re expected to see over a 10% annual growth rate over the next decade. VitaminWater is, therefore, a great choice for this market as it continues to grow in popularity alongside the traditional sodas we typically associate with vending machines. With zero sugar and lots of different flavors, this product can be a healthy alternative to Coca-Cola while still delivering a blast of flavor, color, and excitement. 

    Not only do the warmer months bring on thirst and an increase in bottled water sales, but people are tending to opt for alcohol-free vending machine options as opposed to grabbing a beer at the bar. The rise of the mocktail has, without a doubt, accelerated this market providing another opportunity to leverage your vending machine to offer alternatives to water or sugary sodas. 

    Some popular alternatives to discuss with your nationally managed vending service provider especially given this time of year could be regular water options (so natural spring water, naturally carbonated water, or distilled water options like Coca-Cola’s Dasani brand), coconut water, kombucha tea, iced tea, flavored sparkling water, vitamin-infused water, fruit juices, and pre-made smoothies. All of these options will go well alongside your normal soda offerings and will provide your customers with a wide array of healthier options when their thirst hits.

    Related Content: Coca-Cola Flavors Offered in Vending Machines 

    Vending Machine Drinks for Spring and Summer

    Spring is a great time of year to test out new vending options! People are getting more active, and thirsty for healthier alternatives to traditional vending machine drinks. The desire for hydration as it gets warmer and an increased focus on health during the warmer months tend to steer people away from hot chocolate or tea and more towards healthy, hydrating energy-enhancing drinks. People tend to crave more iced tea, fruit-based drinks, healthy hydration, and generally drinks that are better for more active, healthy lifestyles. 

    Here is a list of some of our favorite healthy vending favorites for this time of year:

    Sparkling Flavored Water

    Research shows that carbonated beverage drinkers are looking for less sugar. There are plenty of carbonated options available without all the added sugar of traditional sodas. With carbonated flavored water, customers get the pop without the sweetness (and eventual sugar crash). 


    Bubly is Pepsi's response to the growing demand for calorie- and sugar-free beverage alternatives. We have seen it gain popularity among Pepsi customers as part of the growing trend towards healthier beverage options and has become a prominent player in the sparkling water market.

    Vitamin Water Zero

    Another Coke brand, Vitamin Water Zero is the sugar-free version of these electrolyte-packed, non-carbonated alternatives to traditional soft drinks. They are great for after a workout to get those electrolytes regulated or provide an energy boost when seated at your desk. With flavors like Acai-Blueberry Pomegranate, Revive Fruit Punch, Power-C Dragonfruit, and Essential Orange-Orange, these non-carbonated vending machine drinks tend to be popular in large office buildings, especially if there is gym access.

    Water Flavor Drops

    In the past few years, we’ve also seen the popularity of water flavoring drops like Crystal Light Liquid, SweetLeaf Water Drops, and Skinnygirl Liquid Water Enhancers, among others. There are so many flavors, and they can be mixed to an individual’s flavor preference. These drops provide consumers with lots of options and get everyone sipping more water. And, much like other beverage trends, staying hydrated is a trend itself.

    Sustainability and Eco-Friendly Options

    Major vending machine drink brands are undergoing a remarkable transformation towards eco-friendliness and sustainability, aligning with the global shift towards more environmentally conscious practices. One notable aspect of this evolution is the widespread adoption of biodegradable packaging materials, such as compostable cups and lids made from plant-based plastics. Coca-Cola has been spearheading the reverse vending machine initiative, which is still very new and being piloted in the United Kingdom together with Merlin Entertainments, and we expect it will start to catch on quickly.

    We’ve also seen national vending strategies begin offering plant-based milk alternatives, such as almond, soy, or oat milk. Non-dairy alternatives are a booming market. They cater to the growing demand for dairy-free options while also lessening the environmental impact of conventional dairy production. These advancements reflect a concerted effort by manufacturers and operators to make vending machine drinks not only convenient and delicious but also environmentally responsible choices.

    Inventory Management and Rotation

    National managed vending services play a pivotal role in revolutionizing vending machine drink inventory management and improvement on a large scale. These services leverage advanced technologies, such as IoT (Internet of Things) sensors and data analytics, to monitor inventory levels in real-time. Our nationally managed vending services also contribute to the continuous improvement of vending machine drink offerings by continuously gathering customer feedback and managing service requests related to flavor changes. This helps us stay ahead of the curve when providing options to new customers!

    By tracking consumption patterns and analyzing data, these tools can help vending machine owners and operators optimize stock levels, ensuring vending machines are always stocked with the most popular and in-demand drinks. While these technologies are still somewhat new, Vending Group is excited to introduce more automated vending services to help efficiently manage stock and help our customers get the most out of their vending machines.

    Armed with insights into consumer preferences and trends, we help our customers curate a diverse selection of beverages that cater to varying tastes and dietary preferences. This might include introducing new flavors, brands, or healthier options in response to evolving consumer demands.

    Are you ready to maximize your vending machines and provide your customers with the beverage trends that result in real ROI? Start developing your vending machine agreement for this season now. Get in touch with our team today.

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    Vending Group

    Written by Vending Group